PhDiaries: The friend/work/life balance

The speed at which these days fly past astounds me – I can’t believe its mid February already! That means that I’ve been working on my PhD project (minus the break I took for Christmas – more about that later) for nearly 5 months! And the time has been disappearing so quickly because of how busy it all has become. It seems that the days aren’t long enough, and I wish I had a pause button – or I could at least add an extra week somewhere to catch up with all the work that I feel I can’t finish fast enough. But while I’ve been so busy trying to get everything sorted and straightened out for the project, there is something aside from work which is just as valuable to put time and effort in: the new friends around you.

You might think that when doing a PhD your life is your work, and that has some truth to it. The past months have shown me just how vital it is that you have a passion behind what you do, to get yourself up in the morning, and even more so to get yourself working on your weekends, and in the evenings. Because while I always plan (as I would strongly recommend, if you want to keep your sanity) to work 9-5 days, sometimes the reality is that there is just way too much to do.

But there is something else that will keep you going on those tough days and weeks, and those are the people you keep around you. What I have learnt the past months is that these become some of the most important people: they are the ones that you will share much needed drinks with on a Friday night, dance around the office with when you need to celebrate finishing work for the day, and they are the ones that will bring you snacks late in the evening when you are still entering data into a statistics program. So while your PhD becomes your life, make sure you let some other people into it as well. It takes time and effort to build friendships, but I would say it’s just as important as the time you spend in the office.

So please, do take the time to meet the wonderful people who are around you!

Another lesson that I’ve quickly learnt; is knowing when to take a break. This is just as important as knowing when to get to work. I planned to work the whole Christmas because I hadn’t gotten the amount of reading done by then as I had hoped or planned. But as I should have anticipated, I wouldn’t get much work done at all. And when I came back to my office, beginning January, I was happier for it. When I talked to friends who had worked hard the whole Christmas break, all they could say was that they came back feeling like they needed a vacation (but now they wouldn’t have the chance to take one). You need to take a step back sometimes and put some distance between you and your work to be able to start fresh and with all your enthusiasm restored. So choose wisely when to return to that laptop!

While there is a balance to strike with friends, work and life (and I still haven’t achieved it perfectly yet), it is definitely one to think about. So for the coming months which are sure to become even busier, I know that I need to get better at knowing when to take that break, and I hope I can spend as much time with the friends I have come to make here before I head off to Indonesia in July. And while leaving friends behind makes it harder to leave, they have made Leicester a home which I will look forwards returning to!

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